The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, says the commission is ready for early and Diaspora voting if the 1999 Constitution as altered and the Electoral Act 2010 as altered are amended to allow for them, he told the Senate yesterday.
Speaking while defending the commission’s 2021 estimates, he said the agency was eager to have Nigerians living in foreign countries participate in the electoral process.
Yakubu explained that early voting would enable essential service providers like the police, members of the armed forces, INEC’s ad hoc staff, journalists, and others to exercise their franchise either before or during the elections.
He said diplomatic staff in foreign missions as well as participants in the Technical Aid Corps (TAC) will also be able to vote when the relevant legal instruments are put in place.
He said: “The commission is desirous of giving Nigerians living abroad the right to vote, after all, all our neighboring countries do so. But it requires the amendment to the constitution and the Electoral Act for that to happen.
“And we have already worked out the document. Once the law is amended today, we can roll it out. We are ready. We have had several meetings with the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) but we can’t go beyond what the law provides.”
On some groups who are often disenfranchised during the election, the INEC boss said such essential workers can either vote before or on election day when there is a relevant legal provision to support the idea.
According to him, “It is not just those in the armed services, the police involved in election duty, journalists, INEC ad-hoc staff and some INEC staff don’t vote.
“The reason is that you are posted for election duty to places other than where you are registered, and the law says you vote where you are registered.
“So, if you pass some amendments to the Electoral Act to enable people to vote, there are two solutions perhaps: Early voting, so that those involved in election duty can vote early or major reform of electoral legal framework to allow people to vote wherever they are.”